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James McDonald (1877–1947)

Mr James Mcdonald, M.L.C., Tasmanian Minister for Mines and former Attorney-General, died in the Launceston General Hospital at 7.40 am yesterday. He was aged 70. A State funeral will leave the Church of the Apostles, Launceston, at 2.30 pm on Monday.

The funeral will be attended by the Premier (Mr Cosgrove) and other Ministers, the President of the Legislative Council (Sir Rupert Shoobridge), and the Speaker of the House of Assembly (Mr Dwyer).

Mr McDonald, who was born at Newstead (V.) on January 12, 1877, came to Tasmania in 1897 and worked as a miner on the West Coast until he moved to Launceston in 1915, when he won the Bass Seat in the House of Assembly following the death of Mr Arthur Anderson.

He was defeated at the 1916 general election, and in the same year was returned as the first Labour member for the Legislative Council. He was defeated in 1922, but again won the seat in 1928, and was re-elected in 1934. He was returned unopposed in 1940 and 1946.

On June 22, 1934, Mr McDonald became an Honorary Minister in Mr A. G. Ogilvie's ministry. He was appointed Attorney-General on August 19, 1940, and occupied the post until after the State elections on November 23, 1946 — a record for continuity of office in that position.

Mr McDonald was actively associated with industrial organisations. From 1913 till 1918 he was general president of the Federated Mining Employees' Association, and from 1931 till 1935 secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour Party.

In 1903 he married Miss Mary Ellen Scannell at Gormanston (T). They had a family of four sons and eight daughters. Surviving members of the family are Mrs McDonald, John (Burnie), Bernard, Raymond, and Gordon (Launceston), May (Mrs W. Currie), Flora (Mrs G Tait), Violet (Mrs C. W. Mayne), Eileen (Mrs R. Hay), Veronica (Mrs A. Wilson) and Doreen, (Mrs H. J. Dabber), all of Launceston, and Jean (Mrs M. Lee), of Bell Bay.

The Premier said yesterday:
"The death of Jim McDonald will leave a gap in the ranks of the Government that will be hard to fill.

"He held the beliefs and principles of the Labour movement to be sacrosanct, and worked unceasingly to put them into effect, not only in his Parliamentary duties, but in his everyday life.

"Mr McDonald was my friend for more than 40 years, and was a sound counsellor whose advice was always appreciated. I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife and family."

Sir Rupert Shoobridge said Mr McDonald had earned the respect and esteem of his fellow-members by his integrity and honesty.

Throughout his political career he was always known as a man of his word, a sportsman, and a gentleman.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • photo, Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 11 March 1938, p 8

Citation details

'McDonald, James (1877–1947)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 January, 1877
Newstead, Victoria, Australia


17 October, 1947 (aged 70)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (bladder)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Key Organisations
Political Activism